A Loving Gesture to a Departed WIfe
Those are the first words in the sign which retired park ranger and World War II veteran Jack Curran erected at the feet of the statue he purchased in honor of his departed wife, “Sweet Miss Margaret” (who loved the Eisenstaedt photo) and to memorialize the sacrifices of the veterans with whom he served, spoke clearly of Mr. Curran’s intentions, and what he read in the imagery.
While Mr. Curran was described as hail fellow, well met, by those who knew him, he was a product of his life and times, and experienced Eisenstaedt‘s imagery and the statue which illegally appropriated and adulterated it, through the blinders of his generation.
Thus, this factually inaccurate sign was erected in 2010 – 5 years after Greta Zimmer’s account of the forced kiss was published by The Veteran’s Project, and two years before The Kissing Sailor book solved the long-running mystery of who the figures in the Eisenstaedt photo were, and clarified that the woman who made the fateful mistake of wearing white was not a nurse, and that the forceful intimate act was not consensual.
Sarasota’s response to those revelations which led to re-appraisal of the moment in the photograph by much of the world? Silence. A very large, even looming, silence.
An Advocate for Victimized Children Cries Foul
In early 2020, unaware of the checkered history of the inexplicably displaced giant gropey sailor, Kelly Franklin, a civic activist and web communication specialist involved with a volunteer program for troubled youth, made the city manager and city commission aware that the statue had triggered a severe PTSD reaction in a young rape victim. As Seward Johnson intended, the statue spoke to her at a subconscious and visceral level – in the unmistakable body language of forced submission.
All but one of the city commissioners expressed empathy at this unintended consequence of the super-sized swiped imagery long lamented by many locals. But then-mayor Hagen Brody decided that since he could not be bothered to learn, or apparently handle the truth, the citizens of this city should be forever sentenced to live under a giant lie.
Riding the wave of far right backlash against the removal of offensive statues in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, the politician decided that the wellbeing and mores of those living in the present and the future should be sacrificed to satisfy the bloodlust of his political base and preserve a few good—but misguided—men’s misplaced sentiments about the past.
So thorough is the dismissive denial and false flag patriotism which Brody and his brethren have invested in Sarasota’s monumental mistake, that the tiny soupçon of acknowledgement—the explanatory sign which the city commission invited when they elected to move, rather than return, the play-along pirated piece—was declined.
While city staff expressed fears of that sign be subject to graffiti (a possibility which would make a powerful artistic statement in its own right), bravely putting women and children last, Commissioner Brody filibustered the proposed sign donation, professing concern that some “VIPs in this city” might be dismayed by telling the fuller story of the memorialized moment.
Here are the big scary words—Greta Zimmer Friedman’s words—which were incorporated into the fact-correcting countersign censored by the three male members of the Sarasota city commission:
Kelroy Was Here
Pop-up Pop Art
Kelly Kirschner was a young Sarasota City Commissioner in 2009, when he pledged to follow the guidelines of the city’s zoning code for public art, which precluded accepting any unoriginal works for public display.
Kirschner has a brother who serves in the military, and was faced with a sea of earnest veterans, pleading for the tribute they viewed as their due after a long-fought battle over Unconditional Surrender. Giving in to their sentiments, in a moment which he, the father of a teenage girl being raised in the shadow of the giant spectacle, now regrets, Kirschner provided the decisive third vote for acceptance of the ten year temporary loan of the statue.
His change of heart was prompted by the revelation that the kiss was non-consensual, a fact which was little-noted locally until the 2019 #MeToo tagging episode. Now a college dean, Kirschner “did the right thing” as an educator by attempting to get the city leaders to re-consider the display of the misguided monument.
That effort failed after the local Proud Boys took over the Ringling Bridge to defend their oversized avatar, and today’s more craven politicians, like U.S. Congressman Vern Buchanan and Senator Rick Scott, ignored the inconvenient truth in order to tweet out “patriotic” invective.
In a fitting Sarasota-style art salute to 15 years of civic strife over SRQ’s strange statuary, Kirschner, his son and daughter, and community activist Kelly Franklin and her husband, Ron Kashden, added this sardonic take on the moment memorialized in imposing infringement on women’s and creator’s rights, by adding this painted square to the Sarasota Chalk Festival’s Avenue of Art celebrating Sarasota County’s centennial. If you are visiting Burns Court, please tread on this concrete #MeToo metonymy.
U.S. Vs. #MeToo T-shirts
"Art Evokes Emotion"
Sarasota can’t have a civic fight without t-shirts, so the civic activist’s loving husband secretly commissioned a graduate of the Ringling College of Art + Design to provide an updated interpretation of what that famous 1945 encounter might look like if it were repeated today.
The quote under the artwork is a hat-tip to Dr. Larry Thompson, the president of Ringling College, who helped smooth the purchase of the copyright-infringing candy-colored confection to fulfill the wishes of Ringling donor Tom Savage.
Unlike fellow educator Kelly Kirschner, when Dr. Thompson was informed of the impact of the statue on the young rape survivor and asked to help organize a series of community discussions about the the problematic statuary, he demurred by stating that Ringling’s “donor problem” precluded Dr. Thompson from acting in any way to help address the giant civic mess he played a key role in creating.
So, to honor the trifecta of simultaneously selling out art, women, and the U.S. Constitution, and the profile in not-courage of the man who stayed silent when he was asked to help a damsel in distress, please get your t-shirt today!
All proceeds from the sale of this provocative white garb will be donated to SPARCC (Safe Place and Rape Crises Center) to support survivors of sexual violence living in dark shadow cast by Seward Johnson’s 25-foot tall “celebratory” depiction of perpetual assault.
SIGNS AND SYMBOLS....
Public Comment TO CITY COMMISSION
This is Black History month. March is Women’s History month. These events draw attention to groups too often ignored and overlooked in a world where
history is written by the victors.
Speaking of history, 77 years ago, a drunk sailor, thrilled that WWII was over, grabbed a stranger and kissed her against her will. A crowd, including the sailor’s future wife, watched in shock, while two photographers took pictures.
20 years ago, appropriation artist Seward Johnson told The New York Times he intended to create a mammoth statue based on Alfred Eisenstaedt’s Life magazine photo,
VJ Day in Times Square.
Last night, New Yorker journalist Ronan Farrow, known for his work on the #MeToo movement, spoke on behalf of Ringling College, whose president helped Seward Johnson skirt copyright in order to secure a pledge to the art school.
3 years and 3 days ago, an unknown artist tattooed a #MeToo hashtag on Johnson’s stolen statue.
The graffiti was washed away, but the incident drew broader attention to the true nature of the moment which the pirated statue distorts and invites others to recreate.
WWII’s best known propagandist said
if you tell a big enough lie and repeat it often enough, people will believe it.
Unconditional Surrender is a Big Lie.
I don’t blame Jack Curran for falling for the Big Lie—he made a monumental, but well-intended, sentimental error.
I do blame Seward Johnson, who illegally copied, inflated, and candy-colored Eisenstaedt’s artwork, and adulterated it by substituting romantic flowers for the purse Greta Zimmer clutched, and flaring up the skirt she held down. This means tourists cruelly duped into reenacting the domination pose Greta refused to recreate, do so well looking up at her giant panties.
This is not just distasteful, it is dangerous, because it sends mixed signals about consent, and suggests that the woman in white was a willing participant in the events.
The fear of being blamed, disbelieved, or dismissed underlies the reason that many who have suffered sexual coercion stay quiet. The #MeToo movement is about breaking that silence.
woke, but honest, to acknowledge and discuss the
uncomfortable parts of history, particularly when it comes to the public symbols we display as emulation-worthy in the present.
I hope a future city commission will have the compassion and courage to address Sarasota’s giant mistake.
In the interim, because Winston Churchill warned that
those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it, I have created this educational website, projectdeltadawn.com, about the Times Square encounter, the iconic photograph, and Sarasota’s complicated statue.
Using pictures and words to explore life and time, this website seeks to end the silent tug of war about truth, and promote honest dialogue across generations and genders.
WSLR · The Detail with Cathy Antunes · February 17, 2022
On WSLR’s The Detail, Cathy Antunes interviews former Sarasota mayor Kelly Kirschner and Project Delta Dawn creator Kelly Franklin about the incident in Times Square in 1945, the iconic Life magazine photograph of it, and the Big Lie embodied in Seward Johnson’s Unconditional Surrender statue.
Sarasota Bans Women
In the fall of 2021, the city of Sarasota decided to update its official seal.
Sarasota Herald Tribune columnist Carrie Seidman warned of the perils of such an undertaking it such a fraught political climate. Nevertheless, the city persisted, although it did build a time-delay and censorship mechanism into the already-announced online contest.
The FCC frowns on this sort of thing (in fact, online sweepstakes and contests are heavily regulated, and terms cannot be materially changed once published).
On May 15, 2022, the initial submissions were scheduled for publication on the Brand Sarasota site. The “Coexist banned” imagery, which incorporated a copyrighted depiction of a dove swiped from Etsy, was the only one of the 4 images published on May 15 (notably, individuals submitting potential seal designs were not required to warrant that they owned the rights to the imagery).
The willfully-copyright infringing satirical commentary on how censorship is impacting our classrooms was permissible, but the commentary on red tide and the inadvertent murder of Snooty, Manatee County’s mascot, was not published.
Nor was the “Sarasota Sea Maidens” seal, commemorating women’s loss of bodily autonomy after an illegitimate court set fire to Roe vs. Wade, deemed suitable for publication.
Most tellingly, the re-imagined “5th Eisenstaedt frame,” depicting what we would hope would happen if a drunk Sarasota sailor grabbed a stranger on the street and forcibly kissed her without her consent, was also suppressed.
Notably, half-a-dozen other satirical takes on the seal (all prepared by the same city paycheck recipient) had been published. This issue, and the likelihood of a federal lawsuit over the illegal government censorship, were brought to the attention of the city attorney and city manager on May 15.
By mid-day May 16, 2022 neither had responded, nor had the Juvenalian images commenting on life in Sarasota in 2022 been published. Only after the media were alerted did the city deign to unfree the banned depictions of women (and sea cows, which some think sailors confused with mermaids).
Moral of the story? Sarasota Magazine probably put it best: “Welp” 🙂